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And The Answer Is…

September 4, 2019 3 comments

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to play a little game with you, my readers, which I couldn’t resist. In my post, creatively titled “What Is It?”, I was asking you to guess what might be stored inside of the stainless steel tanks shown in the picture – you can see it here for the reference.

While the internet didn’t break because of all the people rushing in with an answer, I was happy to see some people taking up the challenge. So it is time to provide an answer.

Drumroll, please.

And the answer is …

.

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Perfume

We grow up surrounded by “perfumes” of many, many kinds. But I always was taking it for granted, meaning that I never thought of how perfume is produced. The only interesting fact I knew was that Lancome was unable to produce their perfume in the USA as the water in the USA was different from the one in France where they make their famous products, and they can’t create the products in the USA which would be identical to the ones made in France.

As I’m in the South of France and I had a bit of free time, a friend suggested that I should go visit the perfume factory located in a small town not far from me – Fragonard in the town of Grasse.

As I walked up the stairs, the very first things I saw was the Still:

Still column at Fragonard

During our factory tour, I finally learned how perfume is made – or at least how it is made for the past 100 years – there are different methods which were used in the past. And this is where I learned about many similarities between the world of our beloved grapes and grains by-products and the perfume.

First, it takes a quality raw product to produce a good perfume. Let’s say, the rose petals. In the first step of the process, this raw product will be converted into the so-called Essential Oil. By the way, here is another mini-quiz for you.

How much (by weight) of the rose petals do you need to produce 1 liter (1 quart) of the essential rose oil?

I will give you a second to think about it.

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I don’t know what you came up with, but the answer is 3.5 tons (~7,700 lbs). 3.5 tons!!

I did a little research and found the report stating that the annual yield of Rose petals is roughly 1 ton per acre. So you need 3.5 acres of Roses to produce 1 liter of essential oil. Wow – color me impressed (yes, it is easy to impress the ignorant, if you feel an urge to comment).

Okay, let’s get back to the process. So the rose petals are assembled and boiled in water, which creates a very aromatic (I think?) steam. At some point, the steam travels through the still, and cools off, resulting in the separation of oil and water. That oil is an essential oil which will be further used in blending to produce perfume. The water is used to produce Eau de Toilette or similar products (also via blending, if desired).

Essential Oils display at Fragonard

Once different essential oils are acquired (lots of fruits, flowers, etc. can be converted into the essential oils – mango, lavender, vanilla, jasmine, coconut, … the sky is the limit), the “master blenders” will assemble (blend) the desired products. Then the neutral alcohol will be added, and the final blend will be stored in the temperature-controlled tanks (and this is what you saw in the picture – subject of this quiz), where it will stay for at least a few months or longer, undergoing periodic stirring and then the quality control before it will be bottled to ensure that the final blend is a quality product.

An interesting takeaway – we all know how expensive the perfume is, but just think of that amount of the raw material required to produce even minuscule amount of the perfume – it will give you a different appreciation for the $100 bottle of perfume.

Here you go, my friends – a perfume 101 session.

I’m glad to say that we have a winner in our quiz – Mika, who should definitely pat himself on a back for a very quick – and correct – answer.

Until next time – cheers!

 

What Is It?

September 1, 2019 15 comments

What is it?

Okay, it is given – these are the stainless steel tanks. So maybe the better question will be: what’s inside?

I’m traveling, and might not have time for a proper post. And it is a long weekend in the USA, so let’s have some fun, shall we?

Here is a picture – and yes, I want you to guess what is inside of those tanks:

I will give you two hints:

  1. There is alcohol inside
  2. I’m in France

The answer is coming on Wednesday.

Have fun, good luck, and enjoy your weekend. Cheers!

Coffee and Wine – Ultimate Twins?

February 11, 2017 17 comments

img_7157I know that many of the wine lovers live by the principal “coffee in the morning, wine in the evening”. The sad part is that for many, coffee is just a source of the jolt, the charge for the day, so it is expected to be strong and bitter, to deliver that “wake up punch”. But it is not what the coffee should be – while coffee bean has no genetic relationship with the grape, spiritually, it offers the same qualities: it can be as nuanced as wine, and should be consumed for pleasure – I’m also assuming here that this is why one drinks wine, looking for pleasure.

Before I will make an effort to prove to you my “twin” statement, I want to mention first that this post is also an answer to the last Weekly [Wine] Quiz #122. The object in the picture is coffee – these are so-called coffee cherries, and the coffee beans are inside of those cherries. Red coffee cherries are the ripe ones, and once they reach that color, they will be picked – but more about it later. For now, I’m happy to say that we had a number of winners – Kirsten (The Armchair Sommelier), Bill (Duff’s Wines), Anthony (Oz’s Travels) and Danielle (Naggiar Vineyards) all correctly identified coffee cherries in that picture – congratulations to the winners, you all get the prize of unlimited bragging rights!

The reason coffee came to the forefront on the wine blog, is simple. Well, it is more than one. First of all, I love coffee. Growing up, I was spoiled – not with the best coffee beans necessarily, but rather with one of the very best preparation methods for the coffee – so called Turkish coffee, where the coffee is made without letting the liquid to boil. Second, I just came back after spending the week on Hawaii’s Big Island, a home to one of the very best coffees in the world – Kona coffee. See, I simply had to talk about the coffee.

So what is going on in the coffee world today that it starts resembling the wine world so much? You be the judge:

Terroir and Origin Protection.
There is a growing understanding that similar to wine grapes, it matters where the coffee beans are growing. Hawaiian Kona region is a 26 miles stretch of land along the coast of Pacific Ocean, with the elevations from 800 to 3000 feet above sea level. All Kona coffee can be harvested only within that stretch of the land – any addition of the coffee beans from outside of the designated borders will render the whole batch of coffee not eligible for “100% Kona Coffee” label. Jamaican Blue Mountain designation has similar protection, as I’m sure many other places around the world.  img_7161

Ancient trees.
In winemaking, “old vines” refers to the vines which can reach the age of 100+ and still produce delicious grapes. With proper care, coffee trees can do the same – the ones you see below are more than 110 years old (planted in 1900), and they are expected to produce good fruit for at least another 20 years:

coffee trees

Vintage designations, aging and blending.
An absolute majority of the wines specify their vintage on the bottle, the year when the grapes were harvested, and we all know – vintages matter, not all vintages are created equal, by the powerful hand of Mother Nature. I never heard of vintages in conjunction with the coffee – until now. If any of you are Nespresso fans, there is a good chance you recently received an email, offering Nespresso’s 2014 vintage (!) – here you can find the description of that coffee. I will take a liberty to quote a few lines from the description:

Nespresso experts selected promising fresh Arabica beans from the lush Colombian Highlands and stored them under certain controlled conditions to create a whole new sensory experience” – aged for 3 years.

“Nespresso experts selected a more sophisticated split roasting technique. One part of the beans was roasted lighter to protect the specific elegant aromas of these precious coffee, and the other part was roasted darker to reveal the maturity of the taste and enhance the richness of the texture” – blending!

Harvesting by hand.
Kona coffee is always harvested by hand. The major difference here, of course, that during the coffee’s growing season, which is typically July through February, the coffee is harvested 4-5 times,   were in most cases grapes are harvested only once. Nevertheless, the Kona coffee is harvested by hand, picking only red ripe coffee cherries and leaving greens to continue ripening in the cluster.

coffee berriesI hope you see my point about similarities between coffee and wine, and I think coffee producers are only starting following the steps of the winemakers – for instance, I’m sure we will see more single cru designations for the coffee, more blending and more aging. While production process of coffee and wine are very different, the similarities conjugate again in a major way once the final products reach the consumers. Both coffee and wine deliver pleasure. And it is all in the taste – the nuanced, seductive goodness, which delivers excitement to the taste buds and challenges the brain.

What is uniquely different between coffee and wine is what happening with each product in the “last mile”. The “last mile” literally non-existent in the world of wine – once the wine lands in the hands of the consumer, it is necessary only to open the bottle and enjoy. Yes, the consumer still can affect the taste – try rich California Cabernet served ice-cold – you will see what I’m talking about – but still, the consumer actions are minimally impactful around the wine.

With the coffee, it is a totally different story – even if properly roasted, the coffee still has to be prepared by the consumer, and opportunities to totally destroy the taste are boundless. But – this probably deserves its own post (or two).

That’s all I wanted to share with you for now. Are you a coffee drinker? Do you drink it only for the jolt, or do you actually seek pleasure in that cup? Cheers!

Weekly [Wine] Quiz #122: What is it?

January 28, 2017 11 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new [wine] quiz!

Well, today’s quiz will not be about the wine – it is about something which leaves in the parallel universe to wine. But first, let’s talk about last week’s wine quiz #121, where you were supposed to identify the wine producers based on the images of the bottle tops.

The quiz again was not very simple, as for instance, Field Recordings is a very small producer, Horsepower Vineyards wines are literally impossible to find, and Lolonis Winery, an all-organic producer from Redwood Valley in California, closed in 2011. Nevertheless, we had some answers, and I would like to acknowledge  Zak Ginzburg who correctly identified 3 out of the 7 wines – great job, Zak!

Here are the answers:

Today’s quiz will be something we also played before. Below is a picture of some berries. No, those are not grapes, and they are not used to make wine of any sort. However, in the way those berries are treated and regarded by producers and consumers alike, there are many parallels to be made to the world of grapes and wines. So the question is – can you identify those berries and also provide examples of similarities between these berries and their product and the world of wine?

img_7157

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #121: How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

January 21, 2017 5 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Today we are continuing the theme of the bottle foils and tops in the quiz from the last week – here is the link. In that quiz, you were presented with the pictures of the 6 wine bottle tops, and you were supposed to identify the producers based on those pictures.

Unlike the previous week, the last quiz got zero responses, which makes me sad. Yes, I mentioned that it was a bit harder than the quiz a week before, but was still hoping that at least some of the wine bloggers would be able to recognise the tops as they for sure encountered them on a number of occasions over the past few months. I also was hoping that my hints would be useful – nope. Well, I hope I managed to entertain you at least a little bit, and now it is time to provide the answers:

Today’s quiz should be a bit easier than the last one, most of these producers are better known. Here we go:

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5. dsc_0233

6. dsc_0221

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Even if you recognise only one wine – don’t be a stranger, take it down to the comments line, you have nothing to lose!

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #120: How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

January 14, 2017 1 comment

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Today we are continuing the theme of the bottle foils and tops started in the quiz last week – here is the link. In that quiz, you were presented with the pictures of the 6 wine bottle tops, and you were supposed to identify the producers based on those pictures.

First, I’m very happy to say that we have a winner! Jeff a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist correctly identified all 6 wines! Very well done Jeff, you get your prize of unlimited bragging rights! I also would like to acknowledge Zak Ginzburg and Ryan Sorell – they both correctly identified three wines out of 6 – excellent work!

Here are the answers:

Today’s quiz might be a bit harder that the previous one, but please give it a try as you have nothing to lose. Here we go:

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2. img_4543

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4. img_4553

5. img_4752

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The wines above represent the USA, Chile and Spain. And quite honestly, one of the wines above might be considered a trick question – but not too much of a trick; I will explain myself when I will provide answers. Another wine was already featured in these quizzes before, but the top looked very different.

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

[Weekly] Wine Quiz #119: How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

January 7, 2017 12 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

“Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!” – this was an opening phrase of this long-running feature on the blog – but yes, it had been more than a year since the last quiz post here.

Well, definitely welcome to the weekend, and an occasional wine quiz I managed to put together for you – this wine quizzes used to come out every Saturday, on the various wine-related subjects.

Today’s quiz is on the subject of the wine bottle tops – foils, or sometimes simply the corks themselves. I know, the bottle’s top is rarely something most of us pay attention to. Meanwhile, in a lot of cases, the picture or letters on the top are meaningful, and allow you to identify at least the winery, even if the name is not spelt out. So below are the pictures of 6 of such bottle tops – please see what you can derive out of them.

Here we go:

  1. img_4076
  2. img_5833
  3. img_4750
  4. img_4551
  5. img_4545
  6. img_4556

As this quiz is hard enough, I can offer you a small hint – the wines here represent Spain, US, Australia and Chile.

Please place your answers into the comments section. Remember – you have nothing to lose, and by playing, you can obtain cool bragging rights. The answer will be provided next Saturday – I have enough bottle tops prepared to play another round 🙂

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #118: What Is It?

May 16, 2015 14 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Well, that used to be the ongoing theme for a while in this blog – haven’t done quizzes since January, as I can’t come up with the good theme which will allow for the long run, like the Grape Trivia was. If you can recommend an interesting subject for the wine quizzes – I’m all ears.

Today’s quiz is based on something which I just recently learned. I was fascinated with that small discovery, and thus I would like to pass  the newly acquired knowledge onto you – of course with a little fun, hence the today’s quiz.

Below you see a picture of a bird. That bird has a pretty much a direct relationship with the wine world. Do you know what is the relationship between this bird and the wine?

BirdEnjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Mini Quiz Answer and #MWWC13 Theme Announcement

October 31, 2014 11 comments

Happy Halloween Friday!

Last Wednesday I had a small “what is it” quiz where you were supposed to figure out what was that object in the picture:

What Is It?

What Is It?

Well, somehow it happened to be a difficult question ( or may be it was just boring). Anyway, here is the answer – this is “The Original Lancashire Bomb” – a cheese, produced in Lancashire in UK.

This cheese is covered by the black wax and shaped like a bomb, hence the name. I found it in my local Costco store, and by the time I left the store a number of people just stopped me and asked “what is it???”, which prompted the mini quiz. In case you are wondering , the cheese was very tasty.

And now, to the more important business. The time has come for the new round of Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, this time it will be the challenge number 13, so it should be known as #MWWC13. I know that I already promised that it will be devilish, and I had some ideas – but actually, I’m not as mean as it might appear at the first sight :), so I hope you will like this theme, which will be … wait for it…

 

 

Serendipity

Serendipity!  I have to admit – not being a native English speaker, while I know the word, I often have to reach out for the dictionary if I want to understand the full context of the sentence which contains “Serendipity”. So this theme might still be challenging, but it will force you to look for the happy moments, which is definitely a good thing in my book.

As Jeff the drunken cyclist now is hosting the challenge, I will let him to come up with all the dates for submission deadlines etc., but you have a theme and you can start working on it now. Let’s make sure we will have a record participation in #MWWC13! I promise to be a “nudnik” and will remind you an ample number of times.

That’s all I have to say for now. Now, back to my original dilemma – Zinfandel or Petit Sirah for tonight? Grrr… Happy [winey] Halloween! Cheers!

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – A Mini Quiz, 100 Point Scores, Super Rhone, Story of Pappy and more

October 22, 2014 8 comments

Yes, there been a lapse in the wine quizzes and subsequently, in these Meritage posts – the quizzes will resume at some point, I just think that I exhausted the ‘grape’ series and need to come up with another series which can last for a while – if you have any suggestions, please let me know. But – I came across quite a few interesting articles well worth sharing, and – I also have a mystery object for you to guess what it can be – so let’s have some fun!

Meritage time!

Instead of providing the answers for you today, I have a mini-quiz. A few people saw this and asked – “What is it????”. So the idea came – why don’t we make a quiz out of it? Please take a look at the picture below and let me know what do you think this is, and as a bonus part, name the place of origin of this object:

What Is It?

What is it?

Please provide your answers in the comments section, as usual.

And now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and web!

First, I came across an interesting article by Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and an author of a number of wine books. In this article Tim is talking about the problem with 100-points wines, which seem not to be a “universal truth” for everybody. He is talking about his personal experience with 3 of the 100-points wines, where his own ratings were not anywhere near that perfect score. I can also attest to having the same situation with two of the 100-pointers I was able to try. Yep, a classic case of YMMV – but read the article, it’s definitely worth your time.

We all know the carrying power the words “super-tuscan” have – attach those to the simplest bottle of wine, and everybody are immediately interested. Put some effort into that bottling – and you can easily ask for $90+ per bottle, and you will have no problems selling the wine at that price. Yes, the Super-Tuscan is an Italian phenomenon, and now some producers in France, in the Rhone valley to be precise, are trying to create something similar – a Super-Rhone wine. Here is the link for you to read more.

Have you heard of the Pappy Van Winkle? Well, if you didn’t, may be it is better to leave it like that? Pappy Van Winkle is an American whiskey, a Bourbon, which has such a cult following that while it costs a lot more than absolute majority of single-malt scotches of any age (prices for the simple 10 years old start from about $300), it is literally impossible to find, especially the well aged bottles of 15, 20 or 23 years old. I think it is one of the most fascinating stories for any of the alcoholic beverages, considering that it got to such a prominence in less than 10 years. The story of Pappy Van Winkle definitely worth few minutes of your time – here is the link to the article.

Bordeaux is coming back! Well, of course it never really left, but it lost its luster, especially in the eyes of the millennials, and finally the folks at Bordeaux decided to do something about it. The Bordeaux wine Bureau (CIVB) is starting a global campaign in US, China, Japan, UK and a few other countries to convince the wine buying public that Bordeaux is well and alive, and worth their hard earned money. You can find more details about the campaign here.

Last for today – a few words about 2014 harvest, which have mostly completed in thew Western hemisphere. This article from Wines and Vines presents some interesting numbers – for instance, the whole grape harvest in California was a bit less than 4 million tons. It also goes beyond the numbers and presents some of the trends – as an example, some growers in California Central Valley pull out the vines and replace them with the nuts – our sacred beverage, wine, is only a business for many, and it must be profitable, or else. Go read it for yourself.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

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